Family-friendly is a buzzword that gets bandied around thousands of offices across the UK and is fast becoming a key attribute for many PAs looking for a new role. But what does it really mean? And how can PAs encourage their management to sit up, take note and introduce some practices that will help improve your work/life balance? Ben Black has the tips to make it happen.
The starting point is to understand why employers want to be seen as family-friendly. The reasons are pretty simple and purely commercial. Employers have finally figured out that in these days of more flexible working, you don’t have to do too much to get more out of your working parents. Be a bit “nicer” to any mothers or fathers in the business who happen to have children and you’ll end up with happier and harder-working employees.
Facilitate flexible working by making sure that anyone who might need a work phone has one and knows how to use Facetime or Skype to encourage remote meetings. Flexible working isn’t about patterns; does the job really need someone full time? Break down a role to 30 hours a week on flexible working and it could suffice.
There are, of course, loads of practical ways that employers can help working parents. The most stressful time for families is when childcare breaks down. There are some fantastic emergency childcare schemes out there, such as emergencychildcare.co.uk. Most forward-thinking directors and managers would be happy for the business to pick up the cost if there was an important work deadline that would get hit as a result.
When it comes to family-friendly, culture is fundamental and there are a few ways to start shifting the needle. Organise a lunchtime seminar from a work-life balance expert, order some sandwiches and convince some senior (preferably male) employees to attend and talk about the issues raised afterwards. Make sure there is a proper process in place to keep in touch with anyone who happens to be on maternity leave. And if you really want to be forward thinking ask who in the business combines their job with responsibility for an older relative. You’ll be amazed how much they appreciate just being able to talk about the issues.
Ben Black is Managing Director of My Family Care, which provides childcare support to employers at businesses such as P&G, Barclays, KPMG, Deloitte, and IBM. For more information, visit myfamilycare.co.uk.